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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Application Relocation and Virtualization of Business Critical Applications

AUTHOR: Vladimir ‘Val’ Taft, Business Solutions Architect

Sandy was a reminder. As Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Eastern seaboard of the United States, it brought devastation and human suffering across 15 states. The storm’s destruction flickered across the digital world as well, causing flooding in some of the major data centers, including those in lower Manhattan. As a result, it brought down a number of high-profile web sites and critical applications.

Speaking of extreme situations, I vividly remember working on a project to plan the relocation of a data center out of what had been and, with the recent events in the Middle East, became a war-zone location again. Relocation of 24×7 business critical applications (BCA), not surprisingly, was squarely in the path of this time-critical project. The pressure was real!

These are extreme situations, but even data center move is akin to a natural disaster in that it necessitates a relocation of an application to a different site, albeit at a known date.  Business critical applications are called that for a reason – they are critical to the business.  So even a regular data center move, for example due to a lease expiration, poses many questions for the CIO: How easy it will be to relocate our business critical applications?  How long will it take? Will our IP addresses change? Will it break our legacy applications? What type of downtime will be required? How much new equipment remains within our existing service-level agreements (SLA) and service-level objectives (SLO) commitments?

Deploying an application as a set of virtual machines and storage virtualization greatly simplifies this process and streamlines application relocation. The IT industry seems to now be in agreement that virtualized applications are easier to deploy, run, scale and relocate. For these and other good reasons it is only a matter of time until BCA virtualization becomes a recognized best practice for contemporary IT.

There are, however, a number of barriers hindering BCA virtualization as they:

  • Typically constitute a group of integrated, interdependent applications (known as an application affinity group)
  • May contain legacy applications, thus may be susceptible to breaking down with infrastructure and/or IP addressing changes
  • Need a mature platform as a service (PaaS) infrastructure as relocating a BCA onto an unreliable platform may and usually does create a big problem
  • Tend to have stringent SLOs and highly customized infrastructure, thus require cumbersome infrastructure- and application-specific disaster recovery (DR) methods
  • Require multiple non-production environments to support elaborate software development lifecycle (SDLC), which require changes to be done in technical and organizational synchrony
  • And may warrant  building an enterprise-wide consensus as its implementation plans and schedules require a wider, more elaborate coordination.

When the CIO faces these obstacles, it is not uncommon to do nothing, that is, continue business as usual. This problem avoidance is not a good strategy however, as it leads to:

  • Sub-optimal workload sourcing
  • Longer outages of the business critical applications
  • And higher costs for relocation and recovery.

How real are the technical risks in BCA virtualization?  It took the IT industry a relatively short time to iron out the engineering risks – and by now virtualization of the major IT infrastructure components has become a routine endeavor. The typical low-hanging fruit have been the infrastructure components owned by the corporate IT and not directly visible to the end users. This includes: directory servers; print servers; communications and security appliances; and JEE platforms including WebSphere, Weblogic, and JBoss. Over the past few years, virtualization of the enterprise-class databases: virtualization of MS SQL Server and Oracle, including its clustered variant – Oracle Real Applications Cluster (RAC), has been done and vague supportability concerns have been demystified. So, in actuality, BCA virtualization is a number of problems each of which has been sold. In fact, many of them have to be tackled at the same time, which may be daunting in some cases.

Taking into account the wide scope of technical complexity and potential organizational issues, BCA transformation needs to be approached as an enterprise-wide program. Here are just some of the critical prerequisites the CIO will need to address:

  • A comprehensive business case analysis must be done in the enterprise-wide context that includes facilities, business continuity (BC), DR and strategic IT planning
  • A design must be completed and a budget defined for a set of non-production environments for the BCA virtualization and a highly available production PaaS
  • A credible plan must be defined to guide the implementation, rollout and cut-over to production.

To get your BCA virtualization initiative off the ground, you will need to:

  • Draft a high-level plan for your BCA virtualization initiative and start the process for the inclusion of BCA virtualization in the strategic IT plan
  • Review your business case with the corporate executive management, obtain preliminary budget approvals required to get started
  • Include your BCA virtualization initiative in the strategic IT plan
  • Negotiate a realistic timeframe for completion (18 – 24 months is desirable)
  • Expedite the planning phase and building consensus by having your business case analysis for the BCA virtualization completed early in this process

Technical complexity of BCA virtualization and cost comparison with the business-as-usual baseline is not a trivial exercise. It requires understanding of all facets of IT, including the applications portfolio, technical infrastructure, facilities, DR planning, security, organizational readiness, and last but not least – value engineering. As CIO, it is important to prove to yourself and to your IT organization that for your enterprise, BCA virtualization will indeed lower the TCO for enterprise applications, streamline DR, and help data center mobility.

Which brings us back to planning a data center move and applications relocation.   Readiness for common situations like data center relocations, and even more so –  mobility in the face of natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy or earthquakes as well as those man-made – call for BCA virtualization . And, yes – it does help to be prepared.

VMware Accelerate can help with expeditious business case analysis and the blueprints for successful IT initiatives, thus shorten the critical path to the enterprise-wide BCA virtualization and application relocation readiness.

Visit our Web site to learn more about our offerings, or reach out to us today at: accelerate@vmware.com for more information


Back to the Future

Author: Bill Kirwin

I am currently reading a book (77 Shadow Street, by Dean Koontz) where the main antagonist is called “One.” One is comprised of trillions of bots; nanocomputers that have common architectures and specialized functions that can create new biological forms. The attribute that makes them One is a collective consciousness and singular directive. I will call One an amalgamism in that it expresses itself as a single organism while being an amalgomous assemblage or pooling of computing resources.

I am also reminded of Thomas J. Watson’s alleged 1943 statement, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

Today, I believe Mr. Watson was wrong by a factor of five.

My prediction is that within 10 years, today’s cloud computing diaspora will be viewed as one abstract entity, a common seamless pool of resources to build, deploy, and apply solutions. It will be location independent, device agnostic and deliver the collective aggregation of big data and intelligence of the masses. It might even be self-analytical and intuitive as well as self-healing.

I project that in 10 years over 50 percent of business computing transactions will occur on this platform, rising to 80 percent in 15 years. Whatever infrastructure remains outside this pool will be virtualized resources that are not incorporated. These non-federated resources will probably remain so due to regulatory and security issues that require extra hardened protection.

So what are the implications of this ubiquitous computing utility? First let’s look at the IT industry.

Hardware – Over the next 10 years, commercial data centers will shrink by attrition as their private/hybrid cloud footprint shrinks due to the rapid shift of economy balance toward hosted solutions. There will be a common, commoditized hardware architecture (x86?) that will primarily be marketed to a relatively small number of utility providers with huge, globally decentralized data centers. It will be almost as exceptional for a business to have its own computers as it is today for a company to generate its own electricity.This transition looks identical to the one that took place in the late 1800s as utility power companies began to be the norm for power generation and provisioning. Also, telecommunications companies have followed a similar model, as many smaller entities came together to form a few large collectives that provide centralized services regionally.

Key insighthybrid cloud is a transitionary state and will likely grow over the next 3-5 years and then fade as architecture within the 10-year planning horizon. This rise and fall will be driven by the complexity (and resulting cost) and corresponding cloud economics.

Software – Software as a service (SaaS) will be the predominate delivery model for an increasing number of business applications, which require additional security parameters and offer centralized services such as tax and payroll processing. The term “community cloud” was tossed around a few years ago to describe cloud environments and applications that were industry specific; such as healthcare and finance. There will be fewer and more dominant application service providers and a cultivated supply of start up players, of which over 95 percent will be acquired or not survive. The remaining 5 percent will break out to be next-generation commercial SaaS providers.

Patent law will become as important as innovation as a driver of acquisitions. Competitive differentiation for businesses will be found through optimizing business process and creative use of software, but not by customizing software itself. However, platform as a service (PaaS) will continue be available for new application development for in-house use and for commercial developers. Software will be provisioned by consumption models rather than licensing models.

Key Insight – There will be 10-20 market dominant SaaS enterprise market leaders driven creatively through acquisition from a farm system of smaller developers.

Services – The services market will largely migrate from complex implementation engagements driven by the need to integrate disparate systems and merge private and external cloud solutions to optimizing business processes and developing service delivery systems for IT management. This will be a key efficiency driver, as service labor costs become the dominant IT cost driver over the next five years.

As market forces have taken the hardware market down to “seeds and stems” and driven the software market to the lowest cost model of usage based pricing, it has shifted the IT market to a professional service based model. Professional services will be the next frontier for cost reduction. Reducing the complexity of IT will reduce the need for professional services, thus enabling an ever-increasing demand for IT. However, it remains to be seen how the cost elasticity will increase the overall IT market size.

Key Insight – Complexity of IT systems will be radically reduced by singular cloud solutions, which will steamroll the market to those solutions. 

Thus, in 15 years there will be One compute resource that will provision transparent, abstracted, automated and well managed IT and inform commercial enterprises both large and small. This platform will enable new levels of innovation as businesses compete for market efficiency and creative solutions.

Accelerate Advisory Services can help you undertake your journey to the cloud and IT transformation. Visit our Web site to learn more about our offerings, or reach out to us today at: accelerate@vmware.com for more information.

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Bill Kirwin is an analytics consultant for VMware Accelerate Advisory Services.